pilot Pirtle to speak
at Village Lights Bookstore
late Dr. Riley flew
around the world in 1986
(August 2010) April 19, 2010, was a very shocking
and disappointing day for pilot Jim Pirtle. It was the day that his
best friend and co-pilot, Dr. Schirmer Riley, died in an airplane crash.
When asked about his first thoughts upon hearing of the accident, he
simply replied that he felt total devastation.
by Laura Goodwin
Jim Pirtle recounts
his travels with the late
Dr. Schirmer Riley.
Sherriff Bill Andrews called me and told me that
the crash involved an orange plane. He said that only the No. 5 was
visible, he said. I had to confirm that it was his plane.
Pirtle and Riley co-authored the book, Two Pilots, One Engine,
detailing their 1986 trip around the world. Pirtle is scheduled to speak
and sign the book beginning at 1 p.m. on Aug. 14 at Village Lights Bookstore
at 110 E. Main St. in Madison, Ind.
The trip was undertaken in Rileys 1958 Piper PA24-Commanche 250
hp airplane, the same plane involved in the 2010 accident. Pirtle also
owned an airplane, a 1966 Cherokee. But they decided to make the trip
in Rileys airplane because it would be more suitable for the planned
adventure. It had a larger fuel capacity and more horsepower.
We left as friends and came back as brothers, Pirtle said.
It was either that or return as enemies because there was that
much togetherness. We came back as close as brothers.
The two friends would meet approximately three times per week at Hinkles
Sandwich Shop for coffee and conversation. They became a regular fixture
to the employees and residents, around 10 a.m. on any given day. Upon
deciding on an adventure, the pair would meet more frequently. They
would drink coffee and draw their plans out on a napkin, taken from
their tables dispenser. The rough drawn maps and plans would later
be transferred to actual maps and flight plans.
The actual trip, as described in their book, was from July 20, 1986,
through Aug. 29, 1986. They originally planned for the trip to be 40
days but had forgotten about factoring in the International Date Line.
They had to be extremely precise in their planning. Some countries required
over-flight permits, landing permits, and permits just to be
at the airports. All of these permits had time constraints, requiring
small windows of time for arrivals and departures. Pirtle reported that
they stayed on schedule all the way up until they reached India. They
decided to leave India early after they tired of dealing with an issue
with the Indian government. They flew on to Australias Ayers Rock,
circling it a few times before landing.
Pirtle and Rileys trip was one of three total excursions.
He said it was the biggest, but probably least dangerous than
the other two. He said their 1993 trip, where they flew around
South America, was probably the most dangerous. The danger was
in getting reliable aviation reports ahead of their flight plan, more
so than the possibility of encountering drug traffic.
It was during this trip where they flew into a hurricane. It took them
a few hours to get out of the bad weather. The hurricane slowed them
and shook them so much that the plane only traveled eighty miles in
two hours time. Weather like that really gets your attention,
The conclusion of their adventures always found them back at Hinkles,
drinking coffee. Pirtle recalls that he and Riley would talk about their
trips, pausing occasionally to ask each other, Did we really do
The book did not come about until Dr. Robert Trimble, a Hanover College
professor, encouraged them to write it. He told the pair that they owed
it to their community.
Village Lights Bookstore owner Nathan Montoya said, I think hes
a remarkable man, with amazing energy. I regret not meeting Dr. Riley,
but were excited to have Jim come to the Village Lights Bookstore.
We have a lot of personal admiration for them both over their memoir.
They took the cassette tapes that they had made along the 1986 journey,
transcribing them over a long period of time, before the book began
to take shape. The original manuscript was much larger than the finished
product. The book was finished in 2009 and published by Farley Printing
Co. of Louisville, Ky. Most of the sales are through local promotion
of the book, promotions at aviation events and mail order through promotions
in aviation magazines.
Pirtle currently bides his time in between flying, being a gentleman
farmer, taking professional little league photos and spending
time with family.
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